News Archives

African-American pastors learn to ‘tarry for power’

 


African-American pastors learn to ‘tarry for power’

Jan. 11, 2005

By Linda Green*

ATLANTA (UMNS) — The real power for ministry doesn’t come from a book or seminary education but from a pastor’s relationship with Jesus Christ, a United Methodist bishop told 650 clergy.

Because ministry comes with myriad challenges, a "power outside yourself" is needed as well as the knowledge of how to incorporate it into one’s work, said Bishop James Swanson, in the opening address to a convocation of pastors leading African-American churches.

"Power is in the relationship with Jesus Christ in the sense that you are able to surrender yourself and your understanding to his understanding, so that the questions that are answered are out of your relationship with Christ," he said, "(and) so that you may convey the messages to your people in word and in deed."

Pastors of African-American congregations from around the United States gathered Jan. 4-7 for their biannual conference. This year’s theme, "Tarrying for Power, Living in Power," was based on Luke 24:29, in which the disciples are asked to tarry in the city until they have been clothed by power from on high.

"Living in power is dependent upon tarrying for power," said the Rev. Gary Henderson, pastor of East Shore United Methodist Church in Euclid, Ohio.

Bishop Linda Lee explained that God sometimes places people in places where trouble has arisen so that the person might receive the promise available through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. "God positions us, sets us up and arranges things for us," said Lee, who leads the Wisconsin Annual (regional) Conference.

Throughout the four-day convocation, speakers emphasized that the ministerial call should not be taken lightly,

“It is not simply a matter of seeing just a need and saying that since pastors are not meeting a need, I am going to go to seminary and meet that need,” said Swanson, leader of the Holston Annual (regional) Conference. “We believe that anyone who is in representative ministry has to have had an encounter with God in which God says, ‘I need you and I am going to use you.’ There needs to be a sense of an unction (anointing) from God, and you have to continue to cultivate it and experience it.”

The call, he said, is an invitation to participate with the Holy Spirit in building up the body of Christ to transform the world. "There is an understanding that you just don’t sign up," Swanson said.

A challenge in making disciples is that many people in the ministry don’t "understand why God called you in the first place," he said.

The experience of the call means "being touched by the hand and finger of God," said the Rev. James McCray, pastor of Jones Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco.

Several speakers used desert imagery to describe how pastors of African-American churches sometimes feel isolated and alone within the United Methodist Church.

The United Methodist Church has fewer than 3,000 African-American congregations among its nearly 36,000 U.S. churches, noted the Rev. Vance P. Ross, a staff member of the United Methodist Board of Discipleship, the event’s sponsor. "We are not quite 10 percent, and when you are in this context in terms of numbers, you can find yourself alone and isolated in terms of religious cultural expression.

"That can feel arid," he said. "That can feel dry and desert-like. In order to have a sense of bloom and a sense of ‘homeness’ and belonging, there are times we come together, not to enforce the de facto segregation, but to have power to overcome de facto segregation.

The 2005 theme of "Tarrying for Power, Living in Power" points pastors to the Holy Spirit, the source of their ministerial strength, Ross said. "Because we know of arid dry places, we need to be able to get somewhere in the presence of God to be empowered not just to go through the desert, but to make the desert an oasis place, a place where things that should not grow do grow and blossom."

Started in 1999, the convocation has become a popular leadership and training event.

Events such as this are important because "you are given opportunities to connect with sisters and brothers from across the country, and hear from the great minds and theologians in sermons and lectures on what ministry is and can be for the black church in the 21st century," said the Rev. Victoria McKenze, pastor of Henderson Memorial United Methodist Church in Detroit and Oak Park (Mich.) Faith United Methodist Church.

"This event fortified and affirmed my call to be a pastor," said Michele Morton, a divinity student at Gammon Theological School in Atlanta. "I feel as though I am where I am supposed to be."

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

First Name:*
Last Name:*
Email:*
ZIP/Postal Code:*
Question:*

*InfoServ ( about ) is a service of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW


Contact Us

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.

Phone
(optional)

*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add InfoServ@umcom.org to your list of approved senders.